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Defendant Linked to Abramoff

Prosecutors produce e-mails between a federal official and the lobbyist, who at the time wanted to turn the Old Post Office into a hotel.

May 26, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A Bush administration official was taking his cues from Jack Abramoff on redevelopment of the Old Post Office, a historic landmark in downtown Washington, prosecutors suggested Thursday.

In the first trial emerging from the Abramoff influence- peddling scandal, the government introduced dozens of e-mails between the now-convicted Abramoff and longtime friend David Safavian, who was chief of staff to the administrator of the General Services Administration.

Safavian is accused of five counts of lying to GSA investigators and a Senate committee about his relationship with Abramoff by saying that the lobbyist had no business before the agency. Based on Safavian's representations, the GSA allowed him to go on a weeklong golfing excursion with Abramoff to Scotland and London.

The GSA is the federal landlord, overseeing 8,000 buildings around the country including the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, which Abramoff wanted to redevelop for some of his Indian tribal clients.

Abramoff had a luxury hotel in mind, but a campaign was underway by others to turn the post office annex into a women's history museum.

Safavian filled in Abramoff on a meeting with supporters of the museum and Abramoff minced no words in his response.

"What idiots!" the lobbyist wrote. "This would kill any five-star hotel for sure."

Defense attorney Barbara Van Gelder said that Safavian was open to all options for redeveloping the post office, but prosecution witness and career GSA employee Anthony Costa cast doubt on that assertion.

Costa said Safavian "did not seem supportive" of the campaign to have Congress back the museum plan over a hotel.

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